Litigation Against Juul for Targeting Teens

Written By Benjamin L. Vanasse

Every day, a new headline goes viral describing a serious illness, or even death, due to a mysterious vaping-related lung disease. The very first vaping death in Pennsylvania was confirmed on October 4, 2019. Nine confirmed and nine probable cases of vaping-related lung illness have been reported in Pennsylvania, and an additional 63 cases are being investigated. \

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is currently investigating this outbreak of lung injury associated with E-cigarette use or vaping. As of October 1, 2019, 1,080 lung injury cases have been reported to the CDC and eighteen deaths have been confirmed. All of the patients have reported a history of using e-cigarettes, or vaping, products, with most patients reporting a history of using THC-containing products.

Recently, e-cigarette manufacturers – especially Juul, the most dominant manufacturer in the e-cigarette market – have been facing increased scrutiny from state and federal governments, in addition to numerous lawsuits. On October 4, 2019, the mother of an 18-year old boy who dies after using Juul’s e-cigarette for three years filed the first wrongful death lawsuit against Juul Labs, Inc. That lawsuit, like many others, has specifically criticized Juul for their alleged targeting of young people. Juul has been described as an epidemic in many middle schools and high schools around the country.

Three school systems in St. Charles, MO, Olathe, Kan., and Long Island, NY were the first to sue Juul, claiming that Juul explicitly marketed their e-cigarette to young people. Lawsuits have noted compelling evidence of the ways in which Juul targeted young people. For example, starting in 2015, Juul hired social media “influencers” to promote their product and heavily used social media in general.

One lawsuit claims that Juul Lab, Inc. learned how to manipulate the nicotine in its products to maximize addictiveness, while also significantly minimizing the discomfort of traditional cigarettes by creating a product that would not cause throat irritation, which can serve as a natural deterrent to new smokers. Nicotine is particularly dangerous to young people because their brains are still developing through age 25. Nicotine can permanently alter the structure of the brain and cause permanent mood changes and other cognitive disorders. High doses of nicotine can also increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and coronary artery disease. 

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